The ninth best liberal arts college in the nation has admitted to inflating scores on the SAT in order to boost its status. In an email sent to the staff members and students of the small, prestigious California school, and obtained by The New York Times, Claremont McKenna College President Pamela Gann said a senior administration official had taken sole responsibility for the falsified scores, and had admitted to altering the scores since 2005.
The college has said there is “no reason to believe that other individuals were involved,” but has hired a law firm to further investigate the situation.
The scores weren’t inflated by all that much, on average by 10-20 points, but even slight differences can change where a school lands on lists like U.S. News & World Report‘s annual college rankings and others like those from the Princeton Review. In the most recent set of figures made public (which Bloomberg notes is for the college’s current sophomore class), the combined median score of 1,400 was reported as 1,410 and the 75th percentile score of 1,480 was reported as 1,510, according to the Times. Perhaps in part because of its high SAT scores, in this year’s U.S. News rankings, Claremont McKenna was listed as the ninth best liberal arts college in the nation. The college also appears on The Princeton Review’s 2012 list of the 376 Best Colleges.
The discovery at Claremont McKenna further calls into question the usefulness of the college rankings, which are criticized every year after their release for being subjective and using arbitrary measures, especially since the lists rely on information reported by the universities themselves rather than an independent group. Regardless of the criticism lobbied against them, the rankings continue to be influential with parents and students in picking colleges. And that undoubtedly puts a fair amount of pressure on colleges to perform, and in this case, fudge their way to the top.